City will pay relocation expenses for tenants evicted from unsafe buildings in DTLA

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The city is giving the tenants $400,000 to find new homes

The city is paying $400,000 to help relocate artists living in two un-permitted buildings in Downtown LA’s Fashion District, the LA Weekly reports.

At least one of the buildings, a warehouse at 931 Pico, was the subject of intense scrutiny in the wake of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people late last year.

Los Angeles city officials claim the building on Pico, which is zoned for commercial uses, was not permitted for residential use and was not safe for tenants. Fire officials alleged the building didn’t have adequate fire alarms or accessible fire escapes.

According to the Weekly, the tenants say their landlord, Morad “Ben” Neman, refused to pony up the money they are owed under city law when an “order to vacate” has been issued.

So Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar pushed through an emergency motion and, with the help of the city’s chief legislative analyst and administrative officer, the money was found and approved quickly, the Weekly says.

Neman is “subject to legal action by the City Attorney’s Office,” and in court, he will be “pressed” by the City Attorney to repay the money, reports the Weekly.

Julia Roberts buys a low key ranch house in Malibu

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It’s her third home in the area

If we told you that Julia Roberts had purchased a new home in Malibu’s ritzy Point Dume area, we’re guessing you probably wouldn’t picture an unextraordinary ranch house with a patchy yard and an unkempt tree out front. But as Variety reports, the Oscar winning actress has bought exactly that home, paying just under $3.9 million for the primely located property.

This is the third property that Roberts and her husband, Danny Moder, have purchased in the neighborhood, including a pair of homes directly across the street from one another. Variety speculates that this latest buy may be an investment property or simply a very expensive guest house for friends, family, or staff.

Just over 1,600 square feet in size, the home has three bedrooms and a single bathroom. Features include a large backyard, two-car garage, and several garden areas with fruit trees. Built in 1949, the home was being offered for the first time in five decades, according to listing material.

The most attractive feature of the property may have been a rare key to the Riviera 1 gate, leading to the ultra-private Little Dume beach. Worth nearly $4 million? We’ll let you decide, but it’s worth mentioning that Roberts did get a bit of a discount on the property. It was initially listed for $4.45 million.

Who’s funding LA’s Olympics bid?

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The bid is privately funded, but California taxpayers could be on the hook for cost overruns

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June, 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information.

LA 2024, Los Angeles’s Olympic bid committee, filed an annual tax return last week revealing the organization’s largest donors, including many recognizable figures in the local sports and entertainment landscape.

The filing comes hot on the heels of a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee’s executive committee all but assuring that Los Angeles will host the Olympic games in the next 11 years.

As what once appeared to be something of a long shot bid for the games looks increasingly likely to succeed (whether the city hosts in 2024 or 2028), greater attention has been paid to the privately funded bid itself.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, bid chair Casey Wasserman received no compensation for his work, though one of his companies, 247 Group, was paid $1 million for a social media campaign (he reportedly recused himself from discussions related to the hiring of the firm). Wasserman is also the bid’s biggest donor, having contributed $3 million to the organization. (Disclosure: Wasserman is also on the board of directors for Vox Media, Curbed’s parent company.)

According to LA 2024, the organization has raised more than $50 million from its long list of board members, who include former Olympians, entertainment executives, developers, and even local celebrities.

The tax filing only covers the period from August 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016, so its listed contributions cover only a little over $32.6 million of the total money raised by the organization. The list of donors includes global media players such as Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, the LA Clippers, and the charitable foundation of entertainment executive David Geffen.

In total, 30 donors gave at least $1 million to the bid. A handful of contributors could potentially profit from an LA Olympics, including ticket seller and event promoter Live Nation and Universal City Studios—a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, which owns broadcast rights for the games through 2032.

Other donors, including Detroit Pistons owner Thomas Gores, shopping mall developer Westfield, and El Monte’s Longo Toyota dealership, have no obvious connection to the games.

Though the city’s bid is privately funded, California taxpayers could be responsible for up to $250 million of any cost overruns incurred by the games, according to a report from the state’s Legislative Analyst. To ensure residents don’t get stuck with the bill, bid organizers are setting aside a contingency fund for the same amount that can only be used to cover budget shortfalls.

Update: LA 2024 spokesperson Jeff Millman notes that the bid committee has not decided on a ticket vendor for the games and has no business relationship with Live Nation.

West Hollywood lets condo owners off the hook for earthquake safety upgrades

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Condo owners argued the repairs would be too expensive

On Monday, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a motion calling for condo owners to be exempted from a forthcoming seismic retrofit program, as Wehoville reports.

An ordinance proposed by city staff would require many of the city’s concrete buildings and all steel-frame structures constructed prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake to be inspected for potential earthquake risks. Inspectors could then order property owners to bring the structures up to current safety standards.

But Wehoville reports that condo owners at the council meeting argued against the ordinance, saying the building updates should be optional.

A memo from the city’s Community Development Department notes that the seismic upgrades could be costly to condo owners in particular, and multiple residents of the exclusive Sierra Towers building told the council that (by their estimate) such retrofits could cost up to $1 million per unit.

Sierra Towers resident Joy Germont wrote to the council that “the cost of the retrofit would be so enormous that it would cause many of us to have to sell at a great loss.” She pointed to the fact that the building sustained no damage during the Northridge quake as evidence that the repairs might not be necessary.

Seismologists generally agree that Southern California is due for a major earthquake that could cause structurally weak buildings to collapse—especially those built with non-ductile concrete or stiff steel frames.

The council sided with the condo owners, but did not dispatch with the retrofit program altogether. As Wehoville reports, the rewritten ordinance will still apply to owners of apartment buildings found to be in need of retrofits.

Watch How an 8.0 Earthquake on the San Andreas Fault Would Rock LA [Curbed LA]

The Southern San Andreas Fault Is a Ticking Earthquake Time Bomb [Curbed LA]

WeHo City Council Gives Condo Owners a Pass on Earthquake Safety [Wehoville]

Who brought down the Skid Row Neighborhood Council?

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Business improvement districts and some developers opposed the effort

The LA Weekly is taking a close, hard look at how an April election that could have created an independent neighborhood council representing Skid Row residents was lost.

The margin was slim, with 826 against and 766 against a Skid Row Neighborhood Council, but LA Weekly says that one big tide turner was the mobilizing of property owners large and small.

Citing emails obtained under the California Public Records Act to and from Business Improvement Districts of the Historic Core and the Fashion District, the Weekly says it found that a major opponent of a new neighborhood council for the impoverished area was Capital Foresight.

Capital Foresight owns loft buildings in parts of Downtown that would have been located in the new council’s boundaries. According to the newspaper:

In an email to a manager from the Palo Alto–based property trust that owns PE Lofts at Sixth and Main, Scott Gray, director of operations at Capital Foresight, warned that the formation of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council could depress property values in and around the affected area. “The implications may not sound politically correct; however, the economic realities are obvious,” Gray wrote.

Gray declined to comment on the email to the Weekly.

Head over to the Weekly for the full story.

Two new apartment complexes planned for Chinatown

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They’ll bring 70 units to the neighborhood

A pair of new residential projects planned for Chinatown could bring 70 new apartments to the neighborhood.

Plans filed with the city on Tuesday call for the construction of a six-story apartment building with 33 units at 708 South New Depot Street. Three of those units will be set aside for very low-income tenants.

As Urbanize LA reports, a neighboring project is already being planned by the same developer, Bunker Heights, LLC. The five-story building, which is set to rise from a vacant lot at 849 North Bunker Hill Ave, would include 37 units (two of which will be reserved for very low-income tenants).

The two structures are being designed by Labyrinth Design Studio with a wavy, stacked blocks aesthetic and plenty of balcony space.

Black and white renderingLos Angeles Department of City Planning

Chinatown hasn’t seen the kind of development that has transformed adjacent Downtown neighborhoods in recent years, but a few new projects have been announced in the area within the last year. They include a Johnson Fain-designed mixed use development and a glassy, millennial-oriented project near the Gold Line.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s former Hollywood Hills midcentury asks $2.5M

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Features include walls of glass, basalt floor tiles, and teak cabinetry

Missed your chance to purchase John Legend’s sleek midcentury residence when the singer and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, sold it in 2014? Well, here’s another opportunity. The Hollywood Hills home—much admired by Oprah—is back on the market.

Legend and Teigen remodeled it with the help of designer Don Stewart, as they told Architectural Digest in 2013.

Open dining room and kitchen
Bedroom with sliding door

Built in 1961, the 2,200-square-foot residence includes three bedrooms, though one has been converted into a recording studio. There are also two-and-three-quarters bathrooms, including one that is split between indoor and outdoor spaces, with a stone bathtub and a large walk-in shower.

Indoor and outdoor bathroom

Features include beamed and vaulted ceilings, basalt floor tiles, teak cabinetry, and stainless steel kitchen appliances. The open, glass-walled living area opens to a large patio shaded by the roofline, which juts out several yards from the edge of the house. A step-down wooden deck provides additional seating area and views across the hills.

The home sits on on a quarter-acre lot, with terraced gardens, a two-car garage, and an in-ground wooden spa.

Back of house with deck
House seen from street

Legend and Teigen sold the house for $2 million in 2014. It’s now asking $2.495 million.

River LA joins High Line-founded network focused on creating equitable public spaces

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The goal is for the projects to learn from the High Line’s missteps

River LA, the organization that hired Frank Gehry in relative secrecy to retool a master plan for the Los Angeles River, has joined a new network of 19 groups across the U.S. and Canada all working on projects to create new public spaces through adaptive reuse.

Co.Design reports that the network was started in part to share the High Line team’s information and experience with teams working on similar projects, so missteps of the incredibly popular park—and of other similar projects—can be avoided.

The High Line, once an abandoned elevated train track, became a popular destination in New York and rapidly drew high-end investments to the Chelsea area. But many lower-income residents weren’t using the park, because, “They felt it wasn’t built for them, they didn’t see people like them there, and they didn’t like the programming,” the network’s executive director Robert Hammond tells Co.Design. That’s not exactly what High Line team had in mind.

“The most critical point in these projects is social equity around their neighborhoods,” Hammond says, and that means making sure people feel comfortable using their local parks but also that the communities that house parks get to benefit from them economically, too.

Many communities are skeptical of new projects like this, because they often drive up rents and spur businesses that cater to wealthier people. This is a frequently expressed concern in many communities along the LA River’s 51 miles.

The High Line Network is in the process of “developing a framework to help planners measure the social impact of projects,” and that framework is being shaped using information from all projects in the network.

“Public open space is not going to solve income inequality, displacement, and environmental problems,” Hammond tells Co.Design, but “as we think about these projects we have to be thinking about each one of these pieces.”

Dashing midcentury modern in Los Feliz asks $2.25M

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It’s looking for its first new owner in decades

This exquisite midcentury residence in Los Feliz is still seeking its third-ever owner. We first spotted it two years ago, when it appeared on the market for the first time in three decades asking $2.3249 million.

Since then, property records show the house has seen a series of price changes and at least one offer fall through.

View of house from the street

But the glassy, modern home looks as good as ever, with terrazzo floors, wood-paneled walls, and a U-shaped floor plan in which a central foyer divides the home into “public” and “private” wings, as the listing describes them.

Living room with sofa and wood paneling
Foyer with glass walls
Carpeted sitting room

The 2,857-square-foot was constructed in 1964 by architect Donald G. Park. It sits on an 8,942-square-foot lot with neatly manicured gardens in front and yard space alongside and behind the home. Sliding glass doors in the living room and front hall provide easy outdoor access, while a long balcony wraps the front of the house.

Bedroom with vanity and en-suite bathroom
Bathtub beside a window

Other features include a stone fireplace, a wet bar, and a kitchen equipped with tile countertops and vintage appliances.

Asking price is $2.25 million.

LA rental map: Where prices are highest and lowest around the area

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The cost of rent can vary wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood

Los Angeles rental prices are high and getting higher, but prices can vary quite a bit from neighborhood to neighborhood. Rental website Zumper has released a map showing where rents are highest—and lowest—in different parts of the LA region this month.

The prices are based on one-bedroom apartment listings featured on Zumper’s site, so they may trend toward higher-end developments, but the map certainly gives an idea of which neighborhoods are in demand with those looking for a new place.

The most expensive area on the map is Santa Monica, where median rental prices are $3,050 per month, according to Zumper. Neighboring beach communities Venice and Marina del Rey aren’t far behind, with prices hovering around $2,950 and $2,740, respectively.

An influx of tech money in the area may have contributed to the rising rents in these neighborhoods, where prices are now higher than ritzy neighborhoods like Westwood ($2,660) and Beverly Hills ($2,650).

Prices are also quite high in Downtown LA, where Zumper lists the median one-bedroom price as $2,500. That amount is especially high given that prices in surrounding neighborhoods like Westlake ($1,550), Pico Union ($1,425), and Echo Park ($1,770) are hundreds of dollars less per month.

Map of rental prices around the cityCourtesy Zumper

The most affordable neighborhoods on the map (sadly, Zumper’s map does not extend into the Valley, East LA, or the South Bay, so we can’t comment on rental prices in those areas) are Historic South Central, Central Alameda, and the swath of South LA represented by the Voices of 90037 Neighborhood Council. Median rental prices in all three areas are under $1,200 per month.

By Zumper’s reckoning, the median price for a one-bedroom rental citywide was $2,130 in May, up from $2,090 a month earlier.

Quaint 1920s cottage in Altadena seeks $620K

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A cozy, country feeling

This charming cottage in the foothills was built in 1925, and it sits in a small community of similar cottages developed and designed by E.P. Janes, a businessman from New York.

The Altadena house’s charm extends indoors. Textured walls, wood floors, arched windows, and barrel and coved ceilings help the residence maintain a cozy cottage feeling that’s amplified by a fireplace and its little niche.

The dwelling holds three bedrooms, at least one of which appears to be in use as a workshop or office.

The rear yard, though mostly concrete, does have mature fruit trees, plenty of space, and a detached garage.

The 1920s house last sold in 2008 for $460,000. It’s now asking $620,000.

Hollywood residents find their own solution for reopening Beachwood Canyon

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A popular hiking trail at the top of Beachwood closed in April

Hollywood residents are trying to put pressure on the city to reopen Beachwood Drive as a launching point for hiking in Griffith Park and viewing the world-famous Hollywood Sign.

Frustrated by the city’s decision to shutter a popular trailhead at the top of the street, residents have pinpointed a location for a new trailhead that they say would comply with a court order that triggered the closure in April.

They want to carve a new trailhead on city-owned property to the right of the shuttered trailhead. That option was endorsed Monday night by the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council.

“Local access points … a visitor’s center … a gondola … all of these options need to be looked at seriously, and unfortunately the city’s back has got to be against the wall before they do it,” says neighborhood councilmember Sheila Irani. “We now have to force the issue.”

 Via Hollywood United Neighborhood Council
A Hollywood resident and civil engineer, Mike Kaczynski, came up with this solution.

Monday’s board meeting drew dozens of residents, the majority of whom spoke passionately about giving the public as much access to the park as possible. That’s a big turnaround from the past few years, when the most vocal residents had been those trying to keep tourists off of Beachwood.

There are two main reasons residents are advocating for more access. They say they believe it’s the right thing to do, because it’s a public park and the streets that feed into it are public, too. They also say corking one entrance only makes traffic at the other entrances worse, and one neighborhood shouldn’t see relief at the expense of others.

“It is our home and we do love to show it off, but we have to do it in a safe and sane way,” says Sandra Lambert, who has lived on Canyon Drive, a few blocks east of Beachwood, since 1975. “I agree that all of the neighborhoods should share the burden [of the traffic.]”

The decision to close the trailhead at the top of Beachwood stems from a lawsuit filed by Sunset Ranch Hollywood, a horseback riding and tour company located at the end of Beachwood Drive. The ranch accused the city of channeling hikers onto its driveway and blocking cars from getting to its business. Hikers walked on the driveway in order to get onto the Hollyridge Trail, which goes right by the sign.

A judge issued a preliminary injunction in February ordering the city to stop “precluding ingress or egress of vehicles relating to Sunset Ranch.” But the order also said the city had to provide public access to the Hollyridge Trail, “at a location as close to” the Beachwood gate as possible.

The city agreed in March to lock the gate and direct visitors to Canyon Drive in Bronson Canyon. But the trail from there is much steeper—and longer.

To come up with the alternate trailhead at Beachwood, the Griffith Park Advisory Board enlisted the help of Hollywood resident and civil engineer Mike Kaczynski. He says he consulted with the city’s public works and planning departments and used city property records and aerial footage from Google Maps before recommending a new gate and path to Hollyridge from a spot located just a few feet from the existing gate.

He says the city could either carve switchbacks into the property to connect Beachwood Drive to the trial or install a modular staircase.

This solution wouldn’t solve Beachwood’s traffic problems. As the Griffith Park Advisory Board notes:

… This solution is in no way meant to address the traffic congestion or the impact from increased tourism to view the Hollywood Sign on upper Beachwood Drive. This issue is not a Griffith Park problem, but a street services problem, and requires a more global solution involving all the surrounding streets and communities outside the Park. … Both the February 3 order and the March 13 stipulation were only meant to address the Sunset Stables right of way, and the preferred solution is compatible with and satisfies the court order and later stipulation.

Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, who reps the area, isn’t latching onto the idea, but he’s not dismissing it either. One of his field deputies, Shannon Prior, says it’s one of the options he’s studying. Ryu, she says, believes, “it’s not one alternative access point that’s going to solve this problem.” Prior told residents to be patient. Finding a “holistic solution,” she says, will take time.

Meanwhile the recreation and parks department has Curbed it’s, “not prepared to review or comment on” the proposal.

LA home comparison: What $1.1M buys you

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Views in Malibu and a bit of vintage charm in Pasadena

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ‘hoods. We’ve found five homes and condos within $10,000 of today’s price: $1.1 million.

Front of house seen from street
Kitchen and dining area
Living room
Living room fireplaceVia Robert Banchich, Rodeo Realty

↑ Let’s start with this two-bedroom home in Sherman Oaks. Per the listing, the 1,839-square-foot residence was designed by a Hollywood set designer in 2006. It includes two bathrooms, a brightly painted exterior, bamboo floors, and a living room fireplace. The 5,995-square-foot lot includes a garage and a separate studio or office. Asking price is $1.1 million.

Front of yellow house
Living room
Dining room with arched doorway
Brick sitting area in back of houseVia Jon Polansky, Sotheby’s International Realty

↑ According to the listing, this little 1929 Beverly Grove bungalow is on the market for the first time ever—better yet, its price just dropped. The two-bedroom, one-bath home appears to have been recently restored, but it includes vintage-style features such as arched entryways and wrought-iron lighting fixtures. The 995-square-foot home sits on a tiny 2,248-square-foot lot with a small back patio space. Asking price is $1.099 million.

Front of home
Living room
Bedroom with sliding door
View from deckVia Ignacio Rodriguez, Westside Estate Agency

↑ Malibu’s gated Point Dume Club is where you’ll find this three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath residence that boasts very fine ocean views. The home includes an upgraded kitchen, along with hardwood floors, walls of glass, and a large wraparound deck. Community amenities include a tennis court, pool, spa, and sauna. Asking price is $1.095 million, but the HOA dues aren’t cheap—they’ll run you $4,763 per month.

Exterior of home with landscaped garden
Living room with tile fireplace
Dining room
Backyard with patioVia Sharon Verani, Sotheby’s International Realty

↑ This Spanish-style residence in Pasadena was built in 1923 and features plenty of elegant charm and some very nice landscaping. The three-bedroom, two-bath home also includes hardwood floors, a tile fireplace, and multiple outdoor access points. The main residence has 1,820 square feet of floor area, but the 7,768-square-foot lot also offers a guest house, koi pond, and two-car garage. Asking price is $1.098 million.

View of house from driveway
Living room with fireplace
Kitchen with wide window
Back yardDan Stueve, Keller Williams

↑ Here’s a spacious four-bedroom home in Mid-City that was remodeled in 2015, according to the listing. Built in 1925, the 2,421-square-foot Spanish-style residence has new floors, an updated kitchen, and four-and-a-half renovated bathrooms. The house sits on a 7,776-square-foot lot and includes a long driveway and a roomy backyard. Asking price is $1.1 million.

Shonda Rhimes pays $4.6M for a third Hancock Park home

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The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal is on a real tear in the neighborhood

High powered TV executive Shonda Rhimes may be well on her way to taking over Hancock Park as thoroughly as she’s taken over Thursday nights on ABC. According to Variety, Rhimes has just purchased her third home in the neighborhood, dropping just under $4.6 million on a Tudor-style residence built in the 1920s.

The property was initially listed for $4.8 million in March, so Rhimes was able to complete the sale at a bit of a discount.

Around 4,900 square feet in size, the house sits on a roughly half-acre lot with neatly manicured gardens, a fountain, guest house, and a swimming pool. Interior features include hardwood floors, multiple fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, ornate light fixtures, and a large dining room with a coffered ceiling and French doors leading outside.

In addition to her two other Hancock Park residences—including a Mediterranean-style mansion she picked up from musician Beck in 2010—Rhimes has also owned a duplex just west of the swanky neighborhood since 2007, when she paid $1.66 million for the property, according to Variety.

Lindsey Buckingham selling a Brentwood spec house for $22.5M

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The Fleetwood Mac guitarist bought the property in 2012 for under $6M

This newly constructed Brentwood home belongs to none other than Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who purchased the property five years ago, according to the LA Times.

Since then, the parcel has been fully redeveloped. Listing agent David Offer tells Curbed that the interiors of the six-bedroom house were designed by Buckingham’s wife, Kristen, who is a professional designer.

Exterior of colonial home

Like Buckingham’s music, the colonial-style home has a light and airy feel. It features hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, and built-in shelving. The breezy living room opens to an outdoor seating area, and the spacious kitchen also offers easy outdoor access.

Entryway with stairwell

Four full and six partial bathrooms are distributed throughout the main residence and a guest house. The compound, which also includes a three-car garage, is spread across a three-quarter acre lot with stretches of grassy lawn and a swimming pool and spa.

Backyard with patio

Additional amenities include a library, fitness room, second kitchen, and a screening room.

Pool and guest house

The Buckinghams paid $5.8 million for the property when they bought it in 2012. They’re now asking $22.5 million.

Remodeled Bicentennial Park in Hawthorne reopens after 20 years

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A splash pad in time for summer

After sitting dormant for almost 20 years, a Hawthorne park reopened Saturday with a totally new look, courtesy of local nonprofit From Lot to Spot.

The redesign took six years, and the newly revamped park now features a walking path, a splash pad, mosaic art, and fitness equipment—upgrades that were implemented after rounds of community outreach to discover what neighborhood residents wanted in their park.

KPCC reports that Bicentennial Park was closed in the 1990s in an attempt to curb “illicit activity.” Previously, the park had mainly been made up of some under-used tennis courts, says From Lot to Spot. The park, located at 13106 Doty Avenue in Hawthorne, measures about a 1 acre.

From Lot to Spot, a Boyle Heights-based organization, turns vacant or underused land into public green spaces, like parks and community gardens. Last year, the organization partnered with the Trust for Public Land to open a park in Lawndale on what had been a vacant lot.

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